On Tuesday, 24 March 2020, representatives from Kosovo and the European Commission discussed developments over the past year in the areas of public procurement, intellectual property rights, rights of establishment and free movement of services, competition policy, movement of capital, financial services and company law, consumer and health protection. The discussion was held in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which entered into force in April 2016. In all areas, the Commission and Kosovo agreed on the importance of implementing the relevant European Reform Agenda and Economic Reform Programme priorities as well as the recommendations from the Commission’s 2019 Report on Kosovo.
Many of the issues discussed relate to ensuring a competitive economy, including facilitating business and creating a level playing field for companies doing business as well as consumers using those services.
As regards ensuring transparent and equal treatment for companies through public procurement rules, the Commission welcomed positive developments on the rolling out further modules of the e-procurement platform and called for greater cooperation between relevant institutions, as well as capacity building and monitoring of the system.
As regards the enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights, the Commission welcomed awareness raising activities. It highlighted the need for the Government to continue aligning with EU rules and to improve capacity to effectively implement and enforcement the rules.
On rights of establishment and freedom to provide services, the Commission invited Kosovo to further align and implement both the Law on Services and the Law on Regulated Professions, the latter of which will be necessary to ensure mutual recognition of qualifications obtained in Kosovo or the EU. The Commission welcomed reform of the postal services market, which still needs to be opened further to competition in the interests of consumer and business users.
As regards free competition, the Commission welcomed the appointment of the independent State Aid Commission and encouraged it to complete an inventory of state aid schemes, and to align them with EU rules, as foreseen in the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The organisation of training and advocacy measures on competition policy for the staff of the relevant bodies and for relevant stakeholders, especially judges, was also highlighted.
On the movement of capital, financial services and company law, the Commission welcomed information on continuing alignment with EU rules and encouraged assessment and improvement of the capacities of the relevant bodies to enforce and monitor the respect of the rules by companies, to improve a level playing field, as well as to ensure quality control of relevant professional accounting and audit associations. Both agreed on the need to increase efforts to fight informal economy, money laundering and financial crime.
As regards consumer protection, the Commission welcomed the work to implement the 2018 Law on Consumer Protection, while recalling that some elements still need to be further aligned with EU acquis. The importance of awareness and protection of consumers’ rights and traders’ obligations was stressed, as well as the need to involve consumer associations and other relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the legal framework. The creation of a public webpage with alerts on non-food products posing serious risks to consumers, as well as product safety news and other consumer safety issues, was welcomed.
Finally, on health, where the discussion was taking place against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of cooperation with the European Centre for Disease Control was agreed. It was also agreed, more generally, that health policies need to be addressed holistically with increased cooperation and coordination across sectors. The Commission stressed the importance of sustainable financial provisions to provide adequate primary health care services and mandatory health insurance. The Commission invited Kosovo to conduct a health impact assessment on air pollution and to implement existing tobacco control legislation.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement is the framework for the EU and the Kosovo administration to regularly discuss technical and policy issues in relation to the European agenda.
SA Committee and Sub-Committee meetings are co-chaired by the European Commission and Kosovo. Each meeting results in jointly agreed follow-up actions to be taken by the Kosovo authorities. There are seven areas covered through sectorial meetings of sub-Committees, on Justice, Freedom and Security; Innovation, Information Society, Social Policy, Education and Culture; Trade, Industry, Customs and Taxation; Internal Market, Competition, Consumer and Health Protection; Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Food Safety; Transport, Environment, Energy, Regional Development; Economic and Financial Issues, Statistics. Two Special Groups cover the reform of the public administration and normalisation of relations with Serbia.
Each sub-Committee meeting monitors and accompanies Kosovo's delivery on reforms and identifies how the EU can assist in this process. The meetings also provide direct input into the European Commission's annual reports.
SA Committee and Sub-Committee meetings are co-chaired by the European Commission and Kosovo. Each meeting results in jointly agreed follow-up actions to be taken by the Kosovo authorities.